Del Rey residents push back against proliferation near homes

By Gary Walker

Del Rey residents gathered on McConnell Avenue to call attention
to a sudden proliferation of small cell phone towers
Photo by Maria Martin

The slew of small cell phone towers popping up all over Del Rey continues to rile up local residents, and about 20 of them hosted a neighborhood rally last Friday to make sure their city council member got the message loud and clear.

Janet D’Oliveira organized the protest under the new cell tower near her home on McConnell Avenue, about a block and a half below Short Avenue and right in the heart of residential enclave.

“This was a last resort to show how we feel. We have been trying to work with Councilman Mike Bonin’s office to see what we can do about fighting these small cell towers, and we have gotten nothing but the runaround. We’ve been lied to, and we’re disappointed, frustrated and super angry,” D’Oliveira said, adding they had already met with state Sen. Ben Allen’s office and had appointments scheduled with staff of Assemblywoman Autumn Burke and Supervisor Janice Hahn.

Members of the campaign to recall Bonin, launched in response to controversial local road diets, also supported the protest.

The tactic got Bonin’s attention, but there may not be much he can actually do to regulate cell phone tower installations. Federal law prohibits local governments from preventing tower installations due to health concerns, and telecommunications firms have few notification requirements for erecting new antennas.

D’ Oliveira said she received a call from Bonin’s district director Krista Phipps shortly after the demonstration, in which Phipps said Bonin’s office wanted to discuss regulatory changes regarding cell tower placement and notifications.

The council office later issued a statement that staff “continues to have conversations with neighbors and the state Legislature about better notifications and making sure that local neighborhoods have a say in these issues.”

Rennee Salvestrini, a breast cancer survivor still in recovery, lives on Alla Road in Del Rey and, as the Argonaut reported in February, AT&T erected a cell tower outside her bedroom window. She’s concerned about possible health impacts.

“My whole life has been turned upside down the last couple of months. I just can’t believe that anyone can be allowed to invade someone’s life like this and frighten us,” Salvestrini said.

But this week, Salvestrini received news of a temporary reprieve. AT&T spokesman Noel Pallais notified Bonin’s office that AT&T would not activate the tower outside her home until further notice, writing: “Since we are working through a thorough process, I am unable to provide a timeline on its completion.”